SPD Targets South Seattle For New Drug Market Initiative

Fifteen months after Seattle police swooped in and arrested nearly two-dozen Central District drug dealers as part of the city’s Drug Market Initiative (DMI) program—designed to turn dealers’ lives around and get them off the streets—SPD is back at it again, targeting dealers in South Seattle in the last round of the dubiously successful program.

According to police documents, Seattle police began the “Drug Market Initiative South” on Ocober 19th, targeting the areas between 37th to 47th Ave S from Brandon St to Edmunds St.

“There are a number of drug dealers who facilitate the sale of drugs in a number of apartments in this area that are located in the Columbia City/Hollman Park area of 39th and Pearl St,” Detective David Fitzgerald wrote in a search warrant related to the latest round of DMI.

Under the previous Drug Market Initiative in the Central District, Seattle police spent months surveilling low-level street drug dealers—who were mostly addicts themselves—eventually presenting them with hefty files of evidence of their crimes, and offering 18 of them the chance to either get treatment, or go to jail.

The (arguable) problem with the Central District Drug Market Intervention, is that a third of “participants” failed out of the program.

On top of the high failure rate, drug dealers may have come back to the Central District in droves less than a year after the initial round of DMI.

So, given all of that, how does SPD rationalize trying the same program again?

“This is a bad situation that exposes children to street drug sales. For example, there is a bus stop one block from the intersection of 39th and Pearl St. School kids have to walk through the drug deals on the street to get to their homes,” Detective Fitzgerald wrote in police documents. “When I was purchasing narcotics as an undercover detective on 11-01-10 at 39th and Pearl St, a group of 4 to 5 kids about 10 to 15 years old got off the bus from school and engaged me in conversation.”

It’s unclear how many alleged drug dealers were rounded up in the latest DMI—or whether the city has already offered them a chance to get clean. It appears at least two dealers are facing charges for selling crack cocaine out of an apartment at 39th Ave S and S Pearl St. Court records do not say whether the alleged dealers were offered an alternative to jail, or how many dealers were targeted by police.

While the last round of DMI didn’t go quite as well as city leaders would’ve probably liked, it was phenomenal to see SPD and the city trying something different from the old, tired catch-and-release drug war tactics that have completely failed to stop people from wanting drugs over the last two decades.

We’ve been following several other programs the city’s working on, in addition to this latest round of DMI. We’ll have more info soon on the outcome of this latest initiative, and more news soon on Seattle’s other attempts to fight a kinder, gentler drug war.